Hudson -- Not too many years ago the only tweets in school were made by a coach blowing into a whistle.

However, today's tweets are made by computers, smart phones and other hand-held devices using a variety of Twitter applications.

Twitter, a communication platform for social networking, is becoming a mainstream tool used in educational settings by teachers, students and staff members across Hudson.

"Twitter has become a great communication tool and professional development tool for educators," Phil Herman, Hudson's assistant superintendent, said. "I began tweeting a little over a year ago because, as a school administrator, I have the opportunity to see and experience the school district from a perspective that many others may not, and I wanted to help share the many accomplishments and celebrations of our students and staff."

Since joining Twitter, Herman realized the application is "an efficient way to communicate with all types of groups and is an excellent professional development tool for educators," he said.

"Though I thought that Twitter would primarily be a communication tool for administrators to share news with staff and community members, it has proven to be much more powerful as a professional development tool for educators," according to Herman. "On Twitter, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of educational discussion threads called hashtags."

The hashtags cover topics a variety of educational topics, Herman said.

"These discussion threads enable educators from all over the nation and the world to share ideas, lessons, and to collaborate with one another," Herman said. "Twitter has enabled teachers, administrators and staff to expand their professional learning communities to include other educators with similar interests who may be in other districts or other states."

Staff members in Hudson are using Twitter to share assignments, resources and class updates with their students, as well as class activities and pictures of student work with parents, Herman said.

But the staffers also use Twitter to connect with other educators inside and out of the district, and to participate in the discussion threads, Herman said.

Hudson Communications Manager Sheryl Sheatzley uses Twitter as a " real-time communication tool," as she sends tweets during Board of Education meetings and other events, Herman said.

Herman does not know the number of teachers and staff who have Twitter accounts, but he "follows" 74 staff members. The district has about 570 full-time equivalent staff members, he added.

Herman is not the only one who is embracing the technology as a tool. Teachers are using Twitter to send announcements, articles dealing with lesson topics and reading assignments to their students.

Jennifer Lawler, a eighth-grade language arts teacher at Hudson Middle School, is a proponent of using the application as a learning tool.

"I'm always looking for ways to share either a great reading or great technique or something that is thought-provoking with the kids," Lawler said.

Lawler has used Twitter to find a variety of writing examples from authors, which are then shared with her class, she said.

Lawler has also shared pictures with parents, via Twitter, of student work and performances by visiting actors from the Great Lakes Theater.

And while following Lawler on Twitter is optional for her students, Lawler does not follow them.

"For me, that's a line I don't want to cross," Lawler added.

For most students, Twitter is a way to post their thoughts and feelings "for the world to see," Lawler said.

"There is a lot of good that can come from Twitter," Lawler said. "I just don't think they [the students] have seen that yet."

Christine Thaxton, a Hudson High School science teacher, uses Twitter mainly as a communication tool with students.

"I love this venue for short, quick information that needs passed on to my kids," Thaxton said. "I can remind them when there is a test or to tell them to look up an article."

Students use the application to find interesting articles dealing with science and sharing it among themselves.

Like Lawler, Thaxton does not follow the students on Twitter, nor does she have a Facebook page.

"There are some privacy issues people should honor -- there has to be a limit between technology and students," Thaxton said. "My job is to teach them, not control them."

Nick Chiorian, a high school social studies teacher, uses Twitter as a classroom tool for his New Dimensions and AP European history classes.

Chiorian, who has been teaching almost 12 years, said he has watched technology change from teachers creating their own websites, where students would have to visit the pages, to Twitter and Facebook, where the information is delivered to the student.

"So for me, instead of hoping the kids go to my website to see an assignment I posted or an announcement I put up at he last minute, with Facebook and Twitter, I can now get the information to them," Chiorian said.

Chiorian also does not follow the students back.

"I don't even have a personal Twitter account," Chiorian said. "I have one for my New Dimensions class and one for my AP Euro class."

Chiorian said he "rarely follows individuals" on his accounts, but follows a variety of organizations which could possible help his students.

Are there more risks associated with teachers using Twitter with students?

Herman does not think so.

"I do not believe there are any more risks with Twitter than there are with many other technologies or other social media tools,"Herman said. "As educators and adults, we have an obligation to use social media and email in responsible and appropriate ways and to model appropriate behavior for our students."

Herman said new teachers are told at orientation about a "front page test" they can use for Twitter.

"If you are not willing to have your tweet on the front page of the Hub, you probably should not be tweeting it," Herman said.


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